PRESS BRIEFING BY THE UNITED NATIONS INFORMATION SERVICE
19 August 2022
Alessandra Vellucci, for the UN Information Service, said that at the invitation of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, was in Lviv, Ukraine on Thursday to attend a trilateral meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkïye and the Ukrainian leader. Today the Secretary General was in Odesa, where he would visit the port, one of the three being used as part of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. Before returning to New York over the weekend, the Secretary-General would be in Istanbul to visit the Joint Coordination Centre set up to implement the initiative.
Ebola and Monkeypox
Dr. Janet Diaz, lead of the clinical management unit in WHO’s Health Emergencies programme, said the World Health Organization (WHO) has published its first guideline for Ebola virus disease therapeutics, with new strong recommendations for the use of two monoclonal antibodies. Following a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials of therapeutics for the disease, WHO had made strong recommendations for two monoclonal antibody treatments: mAb114 (Ansuvimab; Ebanga) and REGN-EB3 (Inmazeb).
Developed according to WHO standards and methods for guidelines, and published simultaneously in English and French, the guidelines would support health care providers for patients with Ebola, and policymakers involved in outbreak preparedness and response. The two recommended therapeutics had demonstrated clear benefits and therefore could be used for all patients confirmed positive for Ebola virus disease, including older people, pregnant and breastfeeding women, children and newborns of mothers with confirmed Ebola within the first seven days after birth. There was also a recommendation on therapeutics that should not be used to treat patients: these included ZMapp and remdesivir.
The evidence underpinning these recommendations came from two trials, which showed that these reduced mortality by about 60%,s. This was an important advance, but it was important to remember that the drug could not be given alone, there was a need for optimized support of care, as well as other factors, such as access to nutrition, psycho-social support, and support post-discharge. However, more research was still needed, including on early diagnostics, which required community collaboration, national acceptance, among others. This would give countries the knowledge to incorporate these medicines in the clinical pathways for victims of Ebola and should serve as a model for future outbreaks.
In response to questions, Dr. Diaz said the mortality ranges for the disease were probably within the 60-80% case fatality ratio, but there were various different mortalities depending on the outbreak. Where there was a late diagnosis, mortality rates could be very high. The medicines cited aided all age groups throughout the entire course of the disease; however they were more effective when treated early. Dr. Diaz was not currently aware of the cost of treatment, nor whether access was available in all affected countries - the pathway to access was something which required work. The new recommendations were on treatments and on mono-clonal antibodies. Diagnostics were vital in order to get treatment to victims as soon as possible.
On a question on monkeypox, Dr. Diaz said the first guideline had been published in June, including a recommendation for the use of specific antivirals, such as tecovirimat. Its efficiency had not yet been studied in clinical trials. The first recommendation was to use it in clinical research, in order to generate data on efficiency. If governments chose to use it as an unproven therapy, they must use it under the Emergency Use Protocol, which had certain regulations, including that patients had to be informed of the risk-benefit ratio, and had to give informed consent. A Living Guideline process had also begun, and updates would be provided as information emerged on therapeutics and other clinical interventions.
Jens Laerke, Deputy Spokesman of the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths had allocated 5 million USD from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to help meet the humanitarian needs caused by gang violence in Haiti. Since July, hundreds of people had been killed in clashes between gangs in Haiti’s Cité Soleil, and many others caught in the fighting, cutting off their access to food, drinking water, and healthcare, and nearly 280’000 people were affected by the situation. The CERF allocation would help humanitarian agencies increase their response, and funding through UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) would provide food, drinking water, healthcare, and mental health and education support to more than 100’000 people in total. This year an estimated 4.9 million of the population, about 43% of the population, required humanitarian assistance. The Humanitarian response plan for this year, asking for 373 million USD, was currently only 14% funded.
Responding to questions, Mr. Laerke said from OCHA’s perspective, what was critical was that there were hundreds of thousands of people trapped because of gang violence, and who could not be reached, which was why the Emergency Relief Coordinator was injecting funds to this emergency situation.
Also answering a question, Alessandra Vellucci added that yesterday, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) had said that one year after the devastating earthquake that struck the south-western part of the country, more than 250,000 children did not have access to adequate schools. At the end of last year, UNICEF had requested $97 million through the 2022 Humanitarian Appeal for Children to reach 950,000 people, including 520,000 children in Haiti. To date, UNICEF had only received 30 per cent of the funding needed. The agency was asking for $64.6 million in urgent funding to continue helping the most vulnerable. Ms Vellucci mentioned that the World Food Programme had also some figures on food insecurity in the country.
Jens Laerke, responding to further questions, said sexual violence had been endemic, and he would provide more specific data on that issue. There were 280’000 affected in Cité Soleil, but there was 2.5 million people across the country affected by the gang violence. More detailed figures would be provided later. The allocation of 5 million USD served two purposes: first to inject urgent money into critical life-saving operations here and now, such as food, drinking water, mental health, and some educational support, for a limited period of time. It was a small but critical amount. The second purpose was more systemic: when money was injected, other donors followed, as the fund allocation came was a signal that this was a critical life-saving intervention that was needed now.
Shabia Mantoo, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), responding to questions, said there was a need to be clear about protection needs - people should be able to access asylum if they needed protection, and there were concerns over some of these needs and the issues that Haitian refugees faced. UNHCR had a small liaison presence within Haiti focusing on inter-agency cooperation, capacity-building and civil registration, and thus did not have the capacity to systematically monitor all returns. It referred returnees to places where they could get support, and also shared information with other United Nations agencies.
World Humanitarian Day
Alessandra Vellucci, for the Information Service, said that today the international community came together to commemorate World Humanitarian Day, an important day for the United Nations and the humanitarian community, when respect was paid to colleagues, commemorate lost friends, honor the strength of survivors, and recognize the courage of the affected families.
The message of the Secretary General had been distributed. In his video message, the Secretary General said: “There is a saying: “It takes a village to raise a child.” It also takes a village to support people living through a humanitarian crisis. This village includes affected people who are always first to respond when disasters strike — neighbours helping neighbours.” The Secretary General went on to conclude that “far from the spotlight and out of the headlines, humanitarians work around the clock to make our world a better place. Against incredible odds, often at great personal risk, they ease suffering in some of the most dangerous circumstances imaginable. Today, the number of people who need humanitarian assistance has never been higher. On this year’s World Humanitarian Day, we celebrate humanitarians everywhere. We salute their dedication and courage, and pay tribute to those who lost their lives in pursuit of this noble cause. They represent the best of humanity.”
Ms. Vellucci reminded those present that they were invited to join in the commemoration in front of Room XX in the Palais des Nations at 3 p.m. Tatiana Valovaya, Director-General of the UNOG, would be addressing this event, together with Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; Ramesh Rajasingham, Director of Coordination Division and Head of OCHA Geneva; Bradford Smith, Executive Secretary of the UNOG Staff Union, and the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Iraq to the to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva
This commemoration was also an opportunity to remember the victims of terrorism: on Sunday 21 August, the International Day of Rememberance and Tribute To The Victims of Terrorism would be observed. The message of the Secretary-General had been distributed to the journalists.
Jens Laerke, speaking for Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), added that the event would also be livecast, and the advance remarks of Mr Rajasingham had been made available. He invited the media to look at the website, which was the backbone of the awareness raising campaign #ItTakesAVillage
Ms. Vellucci said that on Thursday 25 August at 10 a.m. there would be a hyrid press conference by UNIDIR to launch the Cluster Munition Monitor 2022 report. Speakers included Robin Geiss, Director, UNIDIR; Mary Wareham, Human Rights Watch Arms Advocacy Director; Loren Persi, Monitor Impact research team editor, and Ruth Bottomley, Monitor Impact research team editor.
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination would conclude this afternoon the review of the report of Suriname.
The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, was concluding this morning the review of the reports of China, Hong Kong (China) and Macao (China). This afternoon, the Committee would conclude the review of the report of Indonesia, begun yesterday afternoon.
The Conference on Disarmament was having a public plenary meeting this morning.